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You’re having a group of friends over for a party and you decide to invite a guy you recently met at a coffee shop. You don’t really know him, but he seems like the outgoing sort who comprises your circle of friends and acquaintances. He seems like a good fit.

The guy shows up tipsy and continues to drink and make a fool of himself, telling inappropriate dirty jokes in a voice nobody can miss. While showing off his juggling skills with three of your heirlooms, he drops the 100-year-old figurine your grandmother left you. When you tell him it’s time to go home, he gets belligerent and pours himself another drink, then plops down on your new couch, spilling booze all over it. Meanwhile, your friends, wearing embarrassed looks and tight smiles quickly head for the door.

You probably won’t have this fellow back to your home, even though he called you the next day to tell you what a wonderful time he had and he can’t wait for your next party.

This tale serves as an apt metaphor for those “vendors” you hire to help service your client’s business.  Invite the wrong one and it could end up like that guy passed out on your couch, leaving your clients to wonder about your judgment.

When a public relations agency hires us, we’re obligated to be part of the solution, not hand the agency problems. This comes through understanding the agency dynamic; what a PR agency does and why it does what it does. It helps to understand the nature of the account team’s relationship with the brands it represents, which can run the gamut from cordial to brittle.

The objective for us at KEF Media are results delivered with precision service, to make sure the project runs smoothly and presents a brand in the best possible light. It helps to also understand how broadcast and digital media work and to have the necessary relationships with editorial decision makers.

Creativity is a big part of the solution, too. Having a set that best represents the brand’s messaging is better than plopping a satellite media tour spokesperson down in front of a camera with a logo somewhere in the shot. We also know unpleasant surprises can hurt the agency’s relationship with the brand, possibly irreparably, so it’s vital we work transparently with agency account teams throughout a given project.

It goes without saying that professionalism is crucial. Our people are a reflection of the agency’s people. How our team interacts with the agency’s team and the brand representatives can reinforce and build trust in the agency. If we do our job the right way, we know good things can result for the PR agency, such as another big assignment or maybe a sister brand’s business.

But if it’s done wrong, if the vendor is snoring on the couch, things can go terribly wrong. That’s why I don’t like the term vendor. When I hear it, I always think of the guy selling hot dogs at the ballpark, somebody interested only in making a quick buck and moving on.

I prefer the term partner because it says we have as big a stake in the execution and outcome as our agency clients. That’s why we strive to be the agency’s agency.

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